Sunday, August 17, 2008

Tropic Thunder - Kate's Perspective

Ever been looking forward to something so much for so long that when it finally came out, you practically tried to force yourself to love it, even though you really didn't? That, unfortunately, was my reaction to Tropic Thunder, which I saw Wednesday when it came out. It's a pity, because I loved just about everything about the premise, plus the vast majority of the actors (Ben Stiller can get annoying, but he directed Zoolander, so I was hoping this directorial attempt would be similar). I loved the idea. I loved the actors. I loved the trailers. But I just didn't love the movie.

It wasn't terrible--don't get me wrong. There were some things that TT did right. Spoilers ahead--ye be warned. For instance, has Matthew McConaughey ever been funny before? (At least, intentionally?) And yet he was one of the best things about this movie, particularly in his final scene, where he bursts through the trees in the jungle, mud-streaked and sweating, triumphantly hoisting a TiVo over his head. It was a moment of pure genius. Similarly wonderful were Tom Cruise's impassioned and awkwardly overblown rant to the leaders of a drug ring on the phone, the fake trailers in the beginning (particularly Satan's Alley), and Stiller's revelation about the wisdom of adopting a boy from the village. Really, the first 20 minutes and the last 15 were pretty near flawless.

But the rest of the movie--the remaining hour and 15 minutes--just didn't do it for me. The jokes from earlier in the movie were recycled until they lost their humor; there was unnecessary, drawn-out, unfunny gore; and when they couldn't think of a joke to use, they resorted to just gross situations and language (Jack Black's "proposition" while tied to the tree was funny at first, but then just got uncomfortable). One thing that disappointed me was that Damien Cockburn died right away, as I thought he was actually one of the better characters. There wasn't anything hideously wrong with the movie, but it just kind of fizzled into blandness; it simply wasn't spectacular, which is sad for a film with such great potential.

I won't advise you not to go see Tropic Thunder, but neither can I really recommend it. I'm pretty sure you can see all the truly funny moments on YouTube--Satan's Alley really can't be missed, and the trailers for the actual movie are great, but the rest of it makes for really expensive nap time.

Final rating: C-

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

An open letter to Alanis Morissette

My dear Alanis,

I simply do not know what to say in times like these. For years I have loved you and your music. For many albums I have emasculated myself, swallowed my pride, and simply bought your CDs from the pimple-faced cashier at the music store. I can't remember a time I didn't keep a bag packed in case you swung by and wanted to elope-- It has been that long. But now that you've unleashed Flavors of Entanglement upon the world I don't know if we can be together.

I know you've always been a bit preachy, but it was something I was willing to work on. That being said, "Citizens of the Planet" simply cannot stand. I must put my foot down. Recognizing that we're all in this (read: planet) together, one simply cannot barge into the discussion with so much schmaltz. It must be handled with some finesse or even originality.

"Underneath" may sound fine to the average radio-listener (as it sounds like every other single out in the ether), but as a song from you, it is disappointing. You needn't use such processed music! You are good enough on your own with an understated guitar and a good melody.

The whole album is an out-of-character barrage of poor poetry and misplaced techno beats. You don't do techno! Just because everyone else uses a drum machine doesn't mean that you should too. And the lyrics you've managed to come up with this time seem uninspired.

"With not much making sense just yet/I'm faking it 'till I'm pseudo-making it"

"Pseudo-making it?" What is that? Next time you have the desire to add the prefix "pseudo" to anything except "science," please consult a thesaurus first. I know you're having a hard time with your engagement broken off and all that, but please realize two things: 1) Strong emotions are not an excuse for bad lyrics and 2) this is a sign that we are meant to be. In fact celebration is in order rather than a mournful album.

In short, Alanis, I feel that this album is not a mark against you as an artist, but more a lapse in coherent thought during a time of distress. I know you'll do better and please call me soon-- My girlfriend is coming and have to hide this...

My Deepest Love,


Highpoints: "In Praise of the Vulnerable Man," "Torch," "Incomplete."
Lowpoints: "Strait Jacket," "Not as We," "Moratorium."
Final Grade: C-

Friday, July 18, 2008

The Dark Knight - Kate's Perspective

See that poster to your left? Notice anything missing? Something tall and dark, with pointy ears and a strapping chin? Don't worry, it'll come to you.

The Dark Knight, which Jimmy and I saw at a midnight showing last night, was one of the more wonderful pieces of cinema I've seen in a long while. I won't say perfect--it certainly has its flaws, and with less stellar acting those flaws would've broken a movie like this--but it's so good, they don't even bother you. (At least, not while you're watching. I'll get to it.)

I'm not sure that I've ever seen a movie which depended so completely on its actors, except perhaps There Will Be Blood. Without the absolute badassery brought to it by Heath Ledger, Gary Oldman, Aaron Eckhart and Christian Bale (in this order, for me), it would've been average. Fun, adrenaline-packed mediocrity, but mediocrity nonetheless.

However, the film gods (or Christopher Nolan, I forget which) have chosen to bestow upon us a handful of pants-wettingly amazing performances, and so The Dark Knight transcends the superhero genre and becomes a genuine masterpiece of crime cinema. Gary Oldman, as Commissioner Gordon, is truly his own character in this one; you find yourself really caring about him. Aaron Eckhart's Harvey Dent is the perfect foil to Christian Bale's Batman: on one hand, the charismatic, good-hearted, blond district attorney; on the other, the brooding, gruff, dark vigilante. It's fantastic casting.

And Ledger? If Bale's performance was a little lacking for me, it's probably just because I was only waiting for scenes with the Joker. From his first swagger onto the screen, he absolutely owns the whole damn film. If I were one of the other massively talented actors in this movie, I would be feeling completely mediocre beside him. He's just One twitching, sweating, greasy ball of concentrated crazy. He'll win you over ten minutes in, when he demonstrates a "magic trick" with a pencil. It's unforgettable.

One thing that always annoys me about villains is this: they often appear willing to die, but when death is staring them in the face, they snivel and whimper and wring their hands like everyone else, thus proving themselves not really that insane, just malicious. The Joker, on the other hand, really, truly doesn't give a bat's ass if he lives or dies, and that's sort of exhilarating to watch. He treats death like bungee-jumping or eating sushi; it's something new and exciting, and he might like it. He certainly doesn't treat it like a permanent condition.

Really, I could go on all day about Ledger's performance, which certainly ranks up with Hannibal Lecter as one of the creepiest, most deliciously freaky villains of all time. But I'm sleepy from getting just three hours of sleep, so I'll just urge you to see that for yourself.

Now, to the things that weren't so hot--or, rather, thing, as only one really bothered me. This may be a bit spoilerish, so you've been warned. The lead-up to Harvey Dent becoming Two-Face is long and slow, until the incident which actually turns him; after that, he immediately becomes crazed, bitter and remorseless. The elements were present before, so it's certainly not akin to, say, Anakin Skywalker's inexplicable transformation in Revenge of the Sith. It does work; it's just that it could have worked better, and it's too bad to see them rush that. One other small item I wasn't terribly fond of was a small cameo by Cillian Murphy, reprising his Scarecrow role; at best it was unnecessary, and at worst, a bit confusing. But it was short enough to fade into the background and be forgotten.

Finally, Batman as a character was not as important in this film; I think The Dark Knight was more about Gotham City than about Batman. But this is not necessarily a bad thing. From the intricate settings to the human moments (one involving boats and convicts is particularly touching), Nolan is determined to make you care about Gotham's salvation, and he succeeds, with There's plenty more that can be said about it, but instead, I'll just implore you to go see it yourself, and drink in the chilling, sadistic beauty of Gotham's darkest hour.

Final rating: A

Monday, July 14, 2008

The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene-- Jimmy's perspective

History has seen the rise and fall of many powerful people. Some were considered civilized, others barbarians. Robert Greene, in his book The 48 Laws of Power, has taken the lessons that history and its powerful inhabitants have taught and condensed them into 48 compact and memorable rules. As Greene says in the foreword, these rules can be used to protect yourself from those in power or, if you choose to, take power in any situation or dynamic for yourself.

The contents page of the book rarely seems important unless your knee deep in a last minute cram session. In the case of this text, each law is listed as a chapter and given a concise summary for memory's sake. Even at this point the bold design of Joost Ellfers is creeping through the text. It's also becoming apparent what Greene thinks the nature of power really is.

The body of the text reads quickly with accessible and intelligent prose. Example after historical example are cited with stunning clarity, demonstrating the massive amounts of research dedicated to this book. Many books based on history tend to focus on one period or region of the world simpluy because information is easier to find, etc. etc. Whatever those reasons may be, Greene skirts them an delivers a well rounded cache of sources from European, Asian, African, and Western history.

Mixed in with all this information are supplemental anecdotes printed in the margins. These additions not only aid the information on the page but are aesthetically pleasing because of their color and typography. Even sections of the text itself stray from the tradition block formation to take on more interesting layouts to further illustrate its points.

The rules Greene synthesized from all of history do seem to make sense... If you want to rule over people and have no friends whatsoever. The notions of trust and loyalty are absent from all 48 edicts, reminding the reader how much of the text is based off Machiavellian principles and how friggin' lonely Machiavelli probably was.

The 48 laws of power is suitable for lobbyists or those that wish to combat power people, but not for other social settings. That being said, possessing the knowledge this book offers seem the ounce of prevention that, unfortunately, many people need.


Should you, for some strange reason, be interested in hearing what goes on in my day-to-day life, you can now check that out at Prease to enjoying happy writings fun.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Into the Wild - Kate's Perspective


Owing to the fact that my family has half off all rentals at Family Video this month, we've been watching a lot of movies. And, unusually, we've been watching a lot of movies together. By family, I mean me, my parents, and Jimmy. Jimmy doesn't get to comment here, though, since he only saw the second half.

My mother hated Into the Wild, as I pretty much assumed she would, considering it's a movie (based on a true story) about a boy who goes off into the wilderness because he's pissed at his parents, and doesn't tell them where he is. They find out, eventually, because of course he dies. But it's rare that my mom feels strongly enough about a movie to argue with me on it.

I really can't tell you exactly how I felt about Into the Wild. At first, I disliked the main character, Chris (played beautifully by Emile Hirsch). I thought he was preachy, and that his big "adventure" was just a roundabout way of pissing off his parents. But after the movie was over, I realized that I'm pretty sure that's how Chris felt at first, too. Eventually, as the film goes on and he meets all the people who affect him along the way, he learns to be self-sufficient; he learns to forgive and love those around him; he learns that the pleasure in being alone isn't just the satisfaction you can get from denying others your company. He stops being such an arrogant little bitch and starts to really live the way he thought he was at the beginning.

However, of course he also learns some things he didn't count on. He learns that it's cruel to make the ones who love you worry. He learns that to really experience true happiness, you need someone to share it with. And he learns, ultimately, that he does not want to spend the rest of his life alone. But his lessons come too late, and he dies in the Alaskan wilderness, unable to cross back over the river that was frozen when he came and has now melted.

My first instinct is to tell people this movie is depressing, but that's really not true. Actually, I think that's the best possible ending. Chris learned his life lessons, but where could he have been happy had he lived? He couldn't have gone back to the suburbs and become a lawyer. But he also couldn't stay in the wilderness alone. The most poignant ending, certainly tragic but also more beautiful than any other option, was for him to die; alone, yes, but with love in his heart and truth in his mind.

My condolences go out to Chris's family for their loss, but they are lucky to have known such an adventurous, beautiful soul. I hope it's at peace now.

Final rating: B+

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Russian Ark- Jimmy's Perspective.

In my jaded old age of 22 years, my mind is rarely left blown by the spectacle that many films offer. I'm more drawn to plot and technique than I am to action packed, blood filled frames. That being said, Russian Ark, in all its wondrous glory is the most fantastic cinematic spectacle I've seen. Maybe my amazement comes from the fact I've worked on sets and seen how radically different normal films are made, but I think that anyone who has an ounce of taste will realize the incredible nature of Russian Ark. The spectacle arises from this: Russian Ark is a single 93-minute single take, spanning the entire Winter Palace and Hermitage art museum in Moscow. Within these marvelous 93 minutes there are over 4,000 extras, two orchestras, and an opera. Ho. Ly. Shit.

In terms of plot, things can get a little confusing. From what I can tell (being as my Russian is a little rusty) the viewer is seeing the world through the eyes of a specter or spirit of a man who has died and can essentially “come unstuck in time.” He doesn't seem to know where he is or when he is, nor does he have any control over what time period he happens to walk into. So this confused dead guy, who no one can seen, starts wandering around the Hermitage and Winter Palace where he runs into a traveler in a similar situation. We never learn the traveler's name, but the viewer can glean that he's European, used to be an ambassador, and hates all things Russian. After much exploration and time travel, though, the European decides to stay in the Winter Palace amidst the decadence of a royal ball. It's not mentioned in the film, but it must be noted that the ball the two dead guys attend is the last ball the Czar hosted before the Bolshevik revolution of 1918. Anyway, the whole thing, boiled down to its essence, is basically a biopic of the palace and museum. Every event that these two pass through is historically accurate and representative of many different eras in Russian history.

Given the odd temporal nature and strangeness of the plot, Russian Ark has an extremely dreamlike feel. The characters are unbound by logic, traipsing from time period to time period by simply strolling into another room. These shifts are accompanied by changes in focal length which are odd in themselves since audiences rarely get the chance to see them thanks to our dear friend, editing. What adds to the surreality of it all is the characters' ability to interact with their surroundings one instant and be invisible to everyone but themselves the other. They can pass through crowds without drawing any attention or dance with débutantes in the limelight, but you can never tell which is going to happen.

I've yet to find a more stunning movie. I absolutely love this film. Yet, I realize that nothing is perfect and what I find incredible, many people may see as a boring gimmick. The main complaint I here about the film is the lack of a strong plot. We understand these people are lost and are trying to find their way to where ever it is they're going, but beyond that, there's not much. Personally, I think that this comes with the dream logic, but what's works for one may not for another. Another point is the very dramatic turn around of the "European" character. He begins completely opposed to anything Russian in origin, whether it be art, people, or music. But by the end, he's come full-turn, refusing to leave the palace when he has the chance to be anywhere in place and time. I think 93 minutes is a bit fast to make that shift but then again, I'm not a dead European.

If you get a chance to purchase Russian Ark, or view it at a festival of some sort, do it. Don't hesitate, just buy your ticket, sit back and be taken on a record-breaking, visually beautiful cinematic ride.

Final rating: A-

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Twilight: A Rant

So today, while bored and uncreative at work, I decided to listen to some classical music, hopefully to spur my unresponsive brain into producing something at least marginally useful. Remembering one of my old favorites, I hopped on YouTube and looked up Debussy's Clair de Lune, a gorgeous piece that I prefer on piano over the full orchestra. I glanced at the comments--always a mistake on YouTube, but I thought I might be safe with classical music--and was horrified to find that Every. Fucking. One. is about Twilight. This one, in particular, made my mind bleed:

" [Debussy, she means] wasnt a made up artist!! what an amazing song, just like anything from the impressionist age. I love you Edward!!!!!!!!"

Despite my desire to crawl through the screen and slap this commenter (which I'm pretty sure you can do, now, through the magic of the Internets) I just sat, speechless, and then kicked the copy of Eclipse I've got stashed under my desk. As I thought about my infuriated response, I realized something.

I like Twilight, and I hate Twilight, and I particularly hate Twilight for making me like it, but more than anything I hate Twilight fans.

I picked up Twilight for a friend's birthday (Jimmy's sister, actually) and thought idly that it might be good to read. Once she finished it, she passed it along to me, saying I wouldn't be able to put it down. I generally assume this is true whenever I start a book, because I'm a huge bookworm and I just love to read. So the fact that she was right--that I read it within a day or so--doesn't necessarily reflect on the book, just on my book-consuming speed. For those of you who have been hiding in a cave or deserted island for the last year or so, Twilight is the tale of an ordinary (read: completely loathsome) girl called Bella who moves to a small town to live with her father. When she moves in, she meets Edward, a mysterious outcast at her high school. He's got yellow (no! Golden! TOPAZ!) eyes and "bronze" hair, and he's kind of pasty. Well, it turns out that Edward is a vampire. They fall in love, and then lots of people start trying to kill her, and then Edward proves what an awesome guy he is by saving her ass over and over again.

This, with a few twists and other characters thrown in there, is the basic idea of the series. People have somehow been comparing it to Harry Potter, and I just want to deck them in the face. There is no comparison there, other than that they both involve mystical creatures. But that's where the similarities end.

This rant is so big it has to be broken into parts.

I. Why I Hate Twilight

Twilight has a lot of problems. First off, its main character, narrator and "heroine," Bella. I fucking hate Bella, and not in a "love to hate them" way like I hate Shake from Aqua Teen Hunger Force. I just hate her. She's described as being very average-looking, she gets only decent grades, she's not particularly funny, she's ungodly clumsy (about half the plot points center around this), and she's neither outgoing enough to meet people or shy enough to be mysterious. She has no real talents that I can recall, she just likes to read, sometimes. And yet every fucking male in this series is in love with her. For real: three boys at her school (Mike, Tyler, and Eric), plus her best friend/werewolf Jacob, and of course Edward. Why? Why why why? The only thing she's good at is getting in trouble. And having herself saved. Jesus H, does this girl need a lot of saving. The fact that she was written by a woman makes me want to vomit, because she's just entirely useless. The only useful thing she ever does is manage to save Edward from suicide, but she wouldn't have had to do it in the first place if she hadn't jumped off a cliff in a storm and made him think she was dead via a series of misunderstandings. Yes. My only hope is that she gets better in Breaking Dawn, after she becomes a vampire, but it's not likely.

Second, the plot relies on a tenuous web of increasingly impossible and convoluted twists that could never happen in real life. At the beginning of New Moon, Bella is thrown a birthday party (and is ridiculously ungrateful for it, by the way) by Edward's family. While opening a present, she gets a papercut, which spills a drop of blood and sends Edward's brother Jasper into a frenzy. Edward decides, after this, that it's too dangerous for them to be together, and so he leaves her, convincing her that he doesn't love her (it's a pretty reasonable idea, to me, so I was convinced). The biggest plot point in the book, and it's because she got a papercut from a piece of wrapping paper. And it was deep enough to bleed. After Edward leaves her, she goes into a six-month spiral of depression, where she leans entirely on her friend/slave Jacob, who of course also falls in love with her. Jacob promises to take her cliff-diving, but has to cancel due to family issues. Now, when Bella does something dangerous, she can hear Edward's voice in her head, so she decides to go do it anyway, despite the fact that a storm is coming in. AT THE SAME TIME, her father's friend dies, and he goes to the funeral. Naturally, Jacob saves her from drowning at the last second. While they're at her house recovering, Edward, pretending to be someone else, calls and asks to talk to Bella's father. Jacob answers the phone and says that her dad is "at the funeral." Wasting no time on things such as fact verification or even good-old-fashioned mourning, Edward flies to Italy, where he hopes to convince the oldest family of vampires to kill him, by making a scene in public. Yes, it really is as dumb as it sounds.

Third, the characters just aren't real. Again, Bella's only dimension is that she sucks. Bad. Edward, while he has quite a bit of potential and is infinitely more likable than Bella, can occasionally get near-abusive in his determination to protect her--he takes apart her truck engine to keep her from going to see Jacob, "for her safety." Plus, he's just too damn forgiving. Bella does all kinds of shit to him, and he puts up with it, all the while telling her that she can leave him whenever she gets tired of him. The only character with any depth is Jacob, who both loves Bella and screams at her that she's being stupid. Actually, Jacob's relationship with Bella is similar to mine with these books, except that I occasionally want to punch Stephenie Meyer and Jacob does not.

There are many, many more faults I could describe, but this is long enough already.

II. Why I Like Twilight, Against My Will

I thought after I went away to college I was over teen angst. I thought I had firmly placed all that drama behind me, and now I was interested in good literature, good art, good film, that sort of thing. I thought it was inconceivable that I would ever be drawn to a gothy, whiny, fan-servicing piece of badly-written Mary Sue-ism again.

I was wrong.

It seems that, at heart, I still appreciate things that are just fun to read, regardless of whether they're good or not. Bella sucks, and I'm not interested in her (which is why I sped through New Moon and never touched it again). However, a love story is still a love story, and Edward is lovable. You wish you had someone like him, and I like it when he's happy. For some reason, he's happy with the ridiculous Bella, which is problematic, but whatever. Anyway, what I'm trying to say is that no, things like this don't happen in real life. But maybe once in a while, that's OK. This story fulfills my small but real need for fluffy, angsty, pointless love/drama, and I guess if it keeps me from wanting any of that in real life, it's good enough.

But seriously, it's an annoying thing to like. The other day I was wanting to draw FAN ART. I haven't drawn fanart since my anime phase in high school. How embarrassing. I resisted the urge, but who knows if I'll be able to hold out. I'll have to post it under a fake name. Fortunately I have no desire to write fanfiction, which is good. With a few tiny exceptions, fanfiction makes me cry.

III. Why I Hate Twilight Fans

I'm sorry, and I know I'm going to get tons of shit for this, but Twilight fans tend to be the most annoying fans on earth. Like the ones who posted all over Debussy that they were thinking of Edward while they listened. Look, I'm glad you discovered some beautiful classical music, but shit. Just listen to it. You're not going to marry Edward Cullen; he is fictional. So just enjoy the music.

Plus, Twilight fans like to labor under the misapprehension that Twilight is really, really good. They compare it endlessly to Harry Potter, and I've no idea where they're getting this idea. HP is not a love story at all; it's a classic story about a boy who is not perfect, who has no real advantages except the people who love him, who confronts the worst fears anyone could ever have and saves the world. It's fairly simple, actually, despite the rich world and characters drawn around it. The story itself is timeless--it doesn't rely on ridiculous plot twists or excessive angst, except where it's necessary to be realistic, because Harry is a teenage boy. Remember when I kept comparing Megatokyo to Scary Go Round? Well, Megatokyo is to Scary Go Round as Twilight is to Harry Potter. (Almost. Except that her books are done when she says they will be, and she does improve over time--Eclipse was far, far better than Twilight or New Moon.)

Furthermore, if you don't like Twilight, be prepared to submit yourself to an endless deluge of poorly-spelled comments with lots of exclamation points about why you're stupid and a bad person. I've never met such a passionate group of commenters, and I don't understand it. I love Harry Potter and will defend those books until the end, but I won't suggest you're stupid or somehow amoral because you don't like them. I'll just assume we have different taste in books.

So, anyway, that's the end of this rant. There's more to say, but the spout of rage has died down to a trickle now, so it's time for me to get back to work. Let the hate mail begin.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

WALL-E - Kate's Perspective

I know, I know. I hate reviewing (or watching) over-hyped, extra-commercialized movies just as much as the next pretentious asshole. (And make no mistake, I am one, or I'd be telling you all how much I love Roadhouse--not for the reasons Swayze wants me to, but I love it nevertheless.) Plus, it's just way, way easier and more fun to write negative reviews, isn't it? There's much more colorful vocabulary available for crapping all over things than for praising them.
But in this case I just can't do it. We went to see WALL-E on Saturday night, the day after it opened. I expected to enjoy it, as generally (Cars notwithstanding) I love Pixar. What I did not expect was that I would be completely astonished by it. I suppose it makes sense; Finding Nemo was a masterpiece in its own right, and Andrew Stanton hasn't directed anything else since then. Like all the best directors and actors, he picks and chooses, taking on only the projects he thinks are worthwhile. Brad Bird, fellow CGI director, noted that the script wasn't easy, but the good folks at Pixar decided to give it a whirl and trust their audiences' intelligence.

And what a payoff! From the moment the movie began, I was hooked. There's no real dialogue for the first half-hour or so of the movie; it's just beeps and clicks between WALL-E and his pet cockroach, with the occasional burst of Hello Dolly thrown in (he's only got one movie, and he's a big fan). I won't go too heavily into the plot, since it's still brand-new and most people know what happens anyway. I'll just talk about what makes it wonderful.

First, while the movie is clearly a Shrek-style double-layer movie, with many jokes being just for adults and the characters serving to entertain kids, it didn't have the usual downfalls of that kind of film--in particular, crude bodily-function jokes mixed in with more sophisticated humor, or unnecessary slapstick. There was a lot of slapstick involved, yes, but it was more in the Charlie Chaplin school than the Three Stooges. It managed to do something rare: get kids and adults laughing at the same thing.

Second, this movie may be the first children's movie set in a truly dystopian future. It's bleak; the world is a trash heap and people have devolved into floating, boneless blobs. But the human spirit eventually prevails--an especially big accomplishment in a movie that's mainly about robots.

Third, the relationship between WALL-E and EVE was simply believable. It was more touching than it would have been if it took place between humans, because they could not speak to express their feelings, and communicated simply by gestures. You guys are going to make fun of me, but I was moved to tears several times during the movie, and not just near the end. When EVE fulfills her mission by finding a plant, she goes catatonic, incubating the plant and not responding to WALL-E's beeps and gestures. So WALL-E does his best to care for her until she wakes up; he tethers her to himself with a string of Christmas lights, stands with her in the rain and shields her with an umbrella, and takes her out to watch the sunset. When EVE awakes back aboard the Axiom, the space station that all of humanity lives on, the captain plays a hologram of the recordings her security camera made while she slept. EVE sees what WALL-E did for her, and looks down at her hand, realizing that all along he was trying to hold it. It's incredibly touching and not at all cheesy, particularly because WALL-E has no other motivations; he's just a lonely little robot who's found the only friend he's ever had.

Please go to see WALL-E. Don't buy the toys or anything, because I'm still bothered by the blatant commercialism of it, but show Pixar that their gamble was right--that their audiences can be trusted to think for themselves and understand without being told everything explicitly. If George Lucas had made this movie, some annoying talking robot would have been narrating everything. If Michael Bay had made it, there would have been less mechanical hand-holding and more mechanical arms getting blown off. But fortunately, Andrew Stanton made it, and so we just have WALL-E and his cockroach, beeping showtunes and rolling dutifully into the dust.

Final rating: A+

Thursday, June 26, 2008

David Sedaris - "When You Are Engulfed In Flames"

Let me preface this by saying that if you're looking for a totally fair, unbiased review, you should probably stop here. I love David Sedaris, and will unabashedly pimp Me Talk Pretty One Day to anyone who holds still long enough for me to throw it at them.

With this in mind, When You Are Engulfed In Flames is not my favorite book. It isn't a bad book, by any means, or even a mediocre book. From any other author, it'd be far and away amazing, but since this is David Sedaris, and I'm unreasonable, I expect just a little bit more.

First, the good. Stories that stood out enough for me to remember the titles were "That's Amore," the saga of Sedaris's encounters with a demanding elderly neighbor; "Adult Figures Charging Toward a Concrete Toadstool," describing his and his parents' wildly differing tastes in art; "Memento Mori," a dialogue with the human skeleton he bought his partner, Hugh, for his birthday; "April in Paris," the tale of his pet spider; and "Old Faithful," a story which somehow seamlessly blends descriptions of Sedaris's serial monogamy and an enormous boil just above his ass crack, as only Sedaris can. Despite its being completely, totally disgusting, "Old Faithful" was probably my favorite story of the book, and it illustrates a lot about his relationship with Hugh, something I've always wanted to hear more about. He hasn't written terribly much about Hugh in the past, so this was a nice change, as maybe half the stories in the book are about him this time. "Old Faithful" also demonstrates his fantastic cleverness with titles, for reasons I won't get into here.

The above stories are just what I've come to expect from Sedaris: hilarious, yet oddly moving, and ultimately just something you can relate to. "Memento Mori" has him speaking to a skeleton, which only responds with "You are going to die." "Adult Figures" depicts the bizarre battle we all have out with our siblings as our parents grow old, squabbling over the weird little things you grew attached to as a child. "April in Paris" describes his childish attachment to a spider in his window, and his heartbreak when she leaves him.

In an unusual move, Sedaris has devoted maybe a third of the book to a single story, "The Smoking Section," which details his move to Tokyo and his successful attempt to stop smoking. It's a good story, but I think he'd probably be better off sticking to his shorter format; it tends to lose the thread of everything and ramble a bit.

Now, the not so good. A few of the stories just seemed awkwardly constructed; I didn't understand the connection between the various parts, or the ending seemed rushed. One example of this is "All The Beauty You Will Ever Need," which, despite the cool title, wasn't one of my favorites. Half of it is about buying drugs, and the other half is about their house in Normandy. The connection between the two halves is sort of tentative, and the ending felt tacked on, as though he had exceeded his word count. There were a few other stories with this same problem, and I'm not sure why; the book is hardly long as it is, and I'm sure his regular readers wouldn't mind a bit more.

All in all, though, I'm really just nitpicking because it's David. From anyone else I'd think this was an amazing effort, and it really is hilarious. Plus, David is a generally nice guy (he answers all of his fan mail by hand, and is happy to chat in autograph lines), so you should buy his book. I'll leave you with something I overheard in the autograph line for "Children Playing Before A Statue of Hercules":

Woman in visor: Wow, this is a long line.

David, while signing her book: Yeah, it's pretty big. Not as bad as Chicago, though.

Woman in visor: Doesn't your hand get tired from signing all these autographs?

David, with a perfectly straight face: It used to, but then I started masturbating five times a day to strengthen my wrist. It works pretty well.

Woman in visor: ...

Monday, June 23, 2008

Layout Madness

Yes, we have a new layout. I hope it gives you screaming headaches.

The new header image should be temporary until I can create something decent, although knowing me it'll stay there forever because I like to half-ass things.


EDIT: Well, what do you know? I actually did get off my ass and make a better header (ooh, rhyme). Enjoy!

Friday, May 23, 2008

Coming up next....

After an extended, school-induced hiatus we should be updating quite often over the course of the summer. Also, we should be getting a sweet new layout for the blog thanks to Kate's mad Photoshop and Web Design skillz. (oh, yes, I just spelled it with a "z")

I hope to get some good comments from everybody after a much needed update!

Monday, April 14, 2008

And God spake, and he said...

..."there will be a Portal 2."

And the nerds did rejoice, and feast upon the oily remains of dead sentry bots, and it was good.

But there was still no cake.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

It JUST hit me!

So for the last couple hundred years, it seems, I've been reading...Megatokyo. Not religiously, mind you, just every few weeks or months I would think, "Hrm, I haven't checked up on Megatokyo in a while. I wonder what's changed there." Were I thinking clearly, the answer would have been obvious. But I maintain that my judgment has somehow been clouded for a very long time--no doubt through some evil mind-control scheme.

And so, the other day, I was bored at work, and checked Megatokyo once again. I had a strange feeling in the pit of my stomach. At first I thought maybe it was excitement--like how I feel when I read John Allison's masterful Scary Go Round, or play Portal again after a long hiatus. But when one of the "customers" walked up to ask me a question, I nearly broke my hand, I minimized the window so fast. And then I realized what the feeling was. Shame. I was unbelievably embarrassed to be reading Megatokyo after all these years, and it was from this realization that another one was borne: I fucking despise MT.

Before I'm stoned to death by hordes of prepubescent American anime spazzes (I'm SO avoiding using the word "otaku," simply because I think MT would love that), let me make some disclaimers. It's great that Fred Gallagher followed his dream and got to make his webcomic full-time. I'm sure that he's a wonderfully nice guy--I've got no reason to assume otherwise. And clearly, some inane thing made me check MT sporadically for the last six or seven years. At first, it was almost certainly my teenage "blue period," my years spent languishing in the deepest, darkest pits of nerddom. But after I put away my Dragon Ball Z tapes and stopped drawing "chibi" versions of myself in the margins of my notebooks, I don't think I really had any excuse except familiarity. You sort of want to see things through to the end, you know?

So Fred, if you read this, I'm very sorry. But please go away now, because I'm going to say some things you won't like.

One thing I hear people defend Megatokyo with is that the art is good. But folks, it's just...not. His backgrounds are generally pretty decent and I can get on board with his street scenes. But the people all look identical, male or female, save for their hairstyles--and even some of those are hard to distinguish. Their facial expressions are cardboard, and they aren't even pretty. And for the love of GLaDOS, what the hell is with their hands? They lack any definitive bone structure, and they're TINY. You know that prank kids play where they say, "If your hand is smaller than your face you have cancer," and then when you check they hit your hand into your face? I think if I tried that with these characters, I would freak out upon seeing the hand-to-face proportion and run screaming. This is something I ALWAYS notice.

And the real problem isn't even that the art is mediocre at best. The problem with the art is that it doesn't ever evolve or improve. Look at Scary Go Round over the years. It's gone through more stylistic changes than I can count, and each has been refreshing and excellent, as always. Megatokyo looks largely the same now as it did in 2000, when I was fourteen and thought it kicked ass.

I'm going to use the art to segue into my second huge gripe now--the schedule. Megatokyo has the most sporadic update schedule I've EVER seen. And for a comic that is just sketched entirely in pencil, with no inking or colors, this is ridiculous. There are weeks where Fred actually meets the three requisite comics, but they're very rare. Most of the time, there's a Dead Piro Day or Dom steps in with stick figures acting out inside jokes, or it simply isn't updated at all. This would be understandable if he were doing it on the side, but this is his JOB. His only job. Yes, the store and all that take up time. But ultimately, there would be no store if not for the comic, so quit designing new figurines and draw your damn comic. And yes, he has a new baby--but that's no excuse. These problems are not new. He's always been this sporadic. John Allison runs a shop for Scary Go Round as well, and he updates five days a week with a beautifully detailed, meticulously-drawn, fully colored and digitized comic. He has NEVER missed a deadline in all my years of reading--at the very least, he has guest strips, but these are once in a blue moon.

Speaking of which, for its seven-ish years online, Megatokyo has gone virtually nowhere. I've tried multiple times to chronicle how much time has actually gone by in the comic world, but I can't quite get it. My estimate is anywhere from two weeks to three months. In SEVEN YEARS. Scary Go Round (yes, I'm going to keep using it, so you may as well get used to the idea) utilizes short, concise story arcs which generally occupy about a week of in-comic time, and usually about three weeks of real-life time. After seven years, that would make about two and a half years of comic time, give or take some. And there is comic time in between arcs. The plot is moving so glacially slow that it's impossible to tell how much time has passed.

...If you can even consider its flimsy string of disjointed occurrences "plot," that is. There have been several "idol" press conferences, a handful of zilla cataclysms, enough emo-centric conversations to get any My Chemical Romance fan through high school, and more forgotten art lessons than I can count. And yet nothing has actually happened. Both the loserish main characters have attractive, smart Asian girlfriends, and yet nobody has scored a kiss yet. Has there even been a hug? Someone, please, let's get this show on the road. Actually, maybe the reason the plot goes nowhere is that Fred has come to the realization that he can't draw people kissing.

This will be my final point against MT, not because I don't have any more, but because it seems like enough and I'd hate to make Fred cry. But seriously--does anyone else see what an egocentric pile of wishful thinking this is? The protagonist is an "idealized" version of Fred himself, a sad, dorky, shy, and ultimately useless little man who inexplicably lands himself a gorgeous, newly-famous Japanese voice actress for a girlfriend. He has all kinds of zany adventures in Japan and manages to score a job with zero effort, and even though he arses things up in every possible way, everyone thinks he's adorable and ignores his fuckups. Romance! Intrigue! Laffs!

...I wish. Well, this was a much longer rant than I intended it to be, but I think it was needed. Seriously, guys, if you're so desperate for something decent to read that you've settled on Megatokyo, close that tab. Open a nice, fresh, new one, and read some fucking Scary Go Round.

Friday, April 4, 2008

There Will Be Blood -- Jimmy's perspective

I just watched There Will Be Blood with a friend this evening. I've yet to see a film with such superb acting. Daniel Day Lewis, Paul Dano, and the film's creators deserve every ounce of respect they received.

I consider myself to be a fairly intellectual person with a fair concept of how to read films, but I must say, I've no idea what this film was about. And I say that in best possible way. TWBB paints such vivid, detailed images that its nearly impossible to decipher parallels and subtext in a single sitting. In other words, this is a very rich text for greater study.

As mentioned earlier, the acting in this film is second to none. Lewis and Dano rendered their characters with such passion that it's difficult to think of them as anything but real. I expected to keep seeing Dano as an incarnation of Dwayne in a different setting but the artfully played, money-hungry pastor shared nothing in common with previous characters. Lewis is such a chameleon that comparison with past roles didn't even enter my mind with this film. The slow, deliberate drawl carried a force and determination that was difficult to even associate with the soft-spoken Lewis.

The score for the film was quite good as well. The string arrangements created extreme amounts of tension while the simple percussion coupled with the other elements of the score helped to reflect the rising action. There were a few sections that didn't seem to work well, and actually resembled a well-recorded kindergarten music class. All in all Atonement deserved the Oscar it received, but the score here served its purpose well.

Without picking the thing apart even more (also, I'm just tired), There Will Be Blood is a fantastic movie if you seek a stimulating, challenging film. Buy it when it comes out of video. I know I will.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Here's a Thought

Just a thought-- if anyone has a movie or game that you'd like reviewed by us, just drop a line. I'm always up for a new suggestion when it comes to gaming and cinema.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Be Kind, Rewind - Kate's Perspective

I saw Be Kind, Rewind on the tail end of its criminally short box office run in a largely empty theater on a Monday night. It's probably a good thing there weren't many people in the theater, because otherwise it might have been difficult to hear the movie--the handful of viewers there cracked up and howled enough to nearly drown it out in a few places.

I expected Be Kind, Rewind to be funny. It would really take quite a lot of effort to make a movie about amateur filmmakers re-shooting Ghostbusters, 2001: A Space Odyssey and Driving Miss Daisy (among others) not funny. And it certainly lived up to that expectation. Despite Jack Black managing to annoy the crap out of me in the first ten minutes (and keep it up for the rest of the film), Mos Def and the shockingly adorable Melonie Diaz contributed more than enough to compensate for what he took away. I'm always surprised by Mos Def's acting talents. I'm not really sure why. He managed to salvage 16 Blocks on his own, and that was a considerable effort. But I digress.

What I didn't expect from the film--and from its admittedly tired premise (a poor community banding together to help a failing landmark business)--was to be genuinely touched. I think this had little to do with the "save the homeland" aspect itself. It had more to do with the idea, which everyone who has ever tried to make a movie with their friends will understand, of banding together to create something unique and beautiful with the people you love. Yes, it's corny, and the movie is corny, sure. But it's also quirky, and funny, and gorgeous. Performances from such lovable veterans as Danny Glover and Mia Farrow don't hurt, either.

The bottom line is that it's rare that a film that can simultaneously make you laugh until you pee AND leave feeling cuddly about humanity, smiling at the strangers on the way out of the theater and getting smiles back. Do yourself a favor; go and see it.

Final grade: A-

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Balls of Fury - Kate's Perspective

Sorry for the lack of updates, everyone (and by everyone I mean the two people who might occasionally stumble across this blog while looking for porn). Life, excuses, whatever. You know.

Anyway, the other night I had lots and lots to do, so naturally I ignored everything and watched adolescent movies with my dad. Somehow, in the sea of much better options (The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, Zodiac, American Gangster, even Ratatouille) we ended up with Balls of Fury. Oh, my dear readers. Oh. Oh.

I assumed that Balls of Fury would be mindlessly entertaining, much in the same vein as Blades of Glory, Talladega Nights, Dodgeball and other such funny but not terribly intelligent films. It was, after all, a recycled concept--a movie about an obscure sport with a surprisingly large underground fanbase. What I did not assume was that the movie's entire script would be recycled. This was clearly a silly assumption.

Fat, unattractive, unambitious but somehow wonderful protagonist: "OMG bathroom joke!"
Blind-when-convenient, crotchety-enough-to-be-cliche-but-not-enough-to-be-endearing old Asian mentor: "OMG racist joke!"
Sexy, tough-yet-provocatively-dressed frigid bitch of a "heroine" who still ultimately needs to be saved by a man: "Don't touch my ass!"
Protagonist: *touches ass*
Everyone: "OMG sexist joke!"
Gay joke waiting to happen: "HAY GUISE DUN FORGET MEH LULZ"

I just checked the running time on IMDB and was beyond stunned to see it listed at 90 minutes. Because it seriously had to have been at least four hours long. It just Would. Not. End. Every time I thought "oh thank you lord jesus for ending my pain" Christopher Walken would pop up with some new sort of electric bondage gear and a funny hat and start the whole thing over again.

It's not that I'm snobby. Really. I quote Anchorman as much as the next college nerd. But all I really ask for is a tiny pinch of originality and a funny, quotable script. It doesn't have to be of Juno proportions--I just ask that its humor be entirely based on not knowing that the scary Chinese overlord is actually Christopher Walken (which you find out halfway through), waiting on the tiresome, unfunny protagonist to get the attractive yet inexplicably hostile girl (which happens before the big tournament even unfolds), and finally, kicking the dead horse on its way out by having the Chinese mentor fall down an elevator shaft. See, it's funny because he's BLIND, get it?!? HAAAAAAAAAAAAAaaaaaaaaaaaaaaauggh.

Someone make me a thirty-second version of this movie that's funny. It shouldn't be that hard.

Final grade: D

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Breathless - Kate's Perspective

Err, yeah. What he said.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Jean-luc Godard's Breathless -- Jimmy's Perspective

As a film student and a lover of cinema I'm always on the search for opportunities to study films that are considered part of the “canon.” Normally, when I watch these films, I'm not disappointed or if I don't find the entertainment value of them, I learn to appreciate what it was the films accomplished. In the case of Breathless, this just was not possible. I sat down with my popcorn in one hand and remote in the other, eager to see an amazing piece of cinema. As I watched the shaky camera and the jump cuts that the film was so famous for, I remained unimpressed. Godard was known for his almost anti-cinema stance in that he wanted to break the developing conventions that were gathering and choking artistic expression through film. A noble cause indeed, but breaking the rules simply because they are there doesn't necessarily make good cinema. Innovation may come from defiance but defiance doesn't always produce innovation.

Granted, Godard was working within the times of Cinema Verite and it was the style, but if he found it necessary to continually cut up the action (and I use “action” loosely) couldn't he have found it in his heart to violate the style of that movement as well? A question for the ages. While the film may not be specifically Verite, it has many of the elements including the natural lighting, outdoor setting, and unstable camera. The film shares many of these traits with Cinema Verite as well as its much more charming predecessor, Italian Neo-realism. I would take The Bicycle Thief and Umberto D. over this cinematic bastard-child any day.

Another qualm I have with the film is misleading classification if it. On the case and in reputation, Breathless is a suspense film. I, personally, find it difficult to be in a state of suspense watching a somewhat homely Frenchman beg for sex from a naïve college student over the course of 30 minutes. Sure there were shootings, a police chase, and fistfights but most of them were removed due to the gratuitous amount of continuity breaks.

The one good thing I found from the film is a brief education in the French Language. It is actually ironic that I chose this film to study for my French language class as the female lead is an American college student studying in France. The last line of the film is her character asking for a translation of the the dying words of Michel Poiccard so using this film to study French is convenient to say the least. Most of the situations within the film are difficult to relate to in my perspective as I don't gamble, shoot police, or steal cars. Despite these differences, many nouns and several small sayings popped out to me well enough to correct the subtitles as they blinked on and off the screen.

In short, I didn't enjoy the film and dislike it even more because I have late charges on the rental. If you have anything to say about the film or want to tell me I suck because I didn't like it leave a comment. Also, I'm noticing a distinct lack of Kate in the co-blogging effort. Hmmmm...

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Fritz Lang's Metropolis (1927) -- Jimmy's Perspective.

Fritz Lang's 1927 classic, Metropolis, is certainly one of the best silent movies I've ever seen. Given the legacy it has created and the number of scholarly articles inspired by it, any review I can give the film will seem inadequate and feeble in comparison with the other fantastic authors who precede me. Despite my ineptitude, I must soldier on to force my worldview on you, the reader, through the wonderful invention of the web log.

For anyone comparing my notes to the film, bear in mind that there are MANY different versions of this film in circulation as it was heavily edited when it was exhibited in the United States. For reference purposes I'm watching the 2002 Kino edition* which seems to be the most complete edition available. If you're from Truman State, it's available in Pickler. All the formalities aside, for the time it was created, this film is surprisingly advanced.

In 1927 many directors were still stuck in the mindset of recording what looked like a stage play. Lang, on the other hand, utilizes close-ups and very advanced editing techniques throughout the film. In addition to those editing techniques the set design and art direction are second to none. The matte work used to the create the city is astounding in quality and the miniatures, though outdated within the world of the film, are rendered well.

We, in the age of CGI, would probably scoff at the special effects out of context but provided that these images were created only 32 years after the creation of motion picture in 1895, they are nothing short of amazing. The visual tricks used to create the exploits within Rotwang's lab are impressive.

Just about everything in the film is good... Just about. Unfortunately, the actors of the time were still stuck in the hyper-emotive early stage style of acting. Anger was expressed through the gnashing of teeth and rending of garments. At one point, Freder, the main character, literally hangs his head and arms Charlie Brown-style to show depression and disappointment. It was a bit much to say the least. Though, I don't begrudge the actors the context they lived in. It was the style. As they say, "everyone was doing it" and it couldn't be helped.

On a bit more meta level, this entire film was Christian allegory with unabashed quotations from the Bible about the Book of Revelations. The Female lead was named Maria and preached from a Cross riddled altar of a "mediator" to act between the "head" that is the administration of the city and the "hands" that are the labor. Continuing with the Christian themes, at one point the statues of Death and the Seven Deadly sins (a great band name for any musicians out there), animate and attack Freder during a psychotic break. Make of it what you will, I'm just saying it is there.

Another area of study within the film is the techno-erotica aspect contained within it. Rotwang creates a machine woman with the intent of transferring the image of his lost love onto it. Many theorists have written on this and have created some very peculiar perspectives, Laurence A. Rickles** being my favorite reading.

In short, if you're a Sci-fi fan or a lover of old classic films, you need to watch Metropolis. It was excellently directed and is a pleasure to watch even 81 years after its creation.

* Metropolis.
Dir. Fritz Lang. Perf. Alfred Abel, Gustav Frohlich, Brigitte Helm. 1927. DVD. Kino, 2002.

** Rickles, Laurence A. "Metropolis, California." ArtUS. 3 (2004): 33- 41.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Juno-- Jimmy's Perspective

If you haven't seen Juno yet, it's worth your time and money. Overall I would say that this is a good film with likable characters and dialog so snappy your ears are red by the end. Visually the film isn't that interesting but there are instances of visual acuity. The image I'm thinking of happens right after Ms. Page's character has a meltdown and drives off in her jalopy of a van. Pulled over to the side of a practically abandoned highway, the camera moves from the van to a high angle shot of a wide open road fading off into the horizon. This shot, the high angle peering down the seemingly endless road, does an excellent (though almost cliche) job of illustrating the literal "long road ahead" and the potential that this girl has. Don't jump in expecting the rich text of more intellectual films, but there are a few interesting images.

As I said earlier, the dialog of Juno is great, but it almost tried too hard at times. Given the situations and the people that were in them, some fumbling is expected. Instead, we have pristine responses and overly quirky banter. It's all quite quotable and often funny, but there is such thing as too much of a good thing

I'll be the first to admit its impossible to escape ideology in filmmaking. Anything that takes so much effort, money, and time can't help but taking on some of the agenda of the filmmaker. In this instance its pretty obvious how Mr. Reitman feels about abortion. To each his own. My qualm lies in the possible glorification of teen pregnancy. If not glorification, the trivializing effect a film like this (and Knocked Up) might have. The whole situation is a bit of a Catch-22. If you don't talk about it in the media, those effected might not be educated on the issue but if it is over-exposed you run the risk of glamorizing or desensitizing the world to teen pregnancy. I digress.

If you get a chance, watch Juno. Ignore the tacky titles at the beginning and bask in the glory of excellently rendered dialog and a well-developed story.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

thought vomit

I'm thinking about everything I've played or watched in the last week, because I can't be assed to sit down and write a comprehensive paragraph about Assassin's Creed (and seriously, who doesn't know by now?). So here's the whirlwind tour of everything I've done.

Portal - Oh fuck yes. Nothing's better than Portal. Explain to me how a 19-level game has more replay value than anything else I've ever played? GLaDoS never gets old. The four-hour puzzle that spawned a thousand inside jokes completely captured my heart just before Christmas break last year. Portal + Cheez-ums Pringles = bliss.

Assassin's Creed - Dammit. Talk to me when I'm less bitter about the ending.

Sweeney Todd - You know how sometimes you wait for a movie for years and years, and you build it up in your brain because everything sounds so fabulous, and then you go and see it the day it comes out and it's just a pile of crap and you feel like you've wasted a couple of years of your life just to be shat on by the motion picture industry? This is SO not one of those movies. Ahhhh. Johnny Depp and Alan Rickman: my dream duet, realized.

Edward Scissorhands - What can I say? I wanted more Burton/Depp action. Everyone has an opinion on Edward Scissorhands and nothing I say will change it. Just keep reading.

Star Wars: Episode I with RiffTrax - This movie is vastly improved by RiffTrax. It is even more vastly improved by Sunny D and vodka. "Long, long ago in a galaxy far away, a filmmaker went pants-crapping insane!" Download it and gather up a roomful of nerds (just not Star Wars nerds).

Super Mario Galaxy - I want to love this game, I really do. I just wish I didn't have to try so hard. It is very well done, and I imagine once I stop comparing it to Super Mario 64 I'll enjoy it a lot more, but that is hard.

That's my week, more or less, interspersed with classes, homework and lots of arty crap...but I won't bore you all with that here.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

The Order: Cremaster 3-- Jimmy's Perspective

I just watched the most pretentious, meaningless, hyped up piece of shit in the world of art film: Cremaster 3. I came in expecting something dense but visually interesting; a film with something to say. I was VERY, very wrong. Cremaster 3, being the only publicly released and mass produced part of Matthew Barney's 5 part series, may not be a representative sample of the series but given what I've seen though, I don't want to see the rest.

Cremaster 3 falls in among the most avant-garde of films in that it has no narrative, no dialog, no direct representation, and absolutely no use within this world or the next. When I think of bad art, I think of performance art: People dancing around in austere settings re-enacting birth through a barbed wire vagina, or lying flat on their back with props and allowing passers-by to use said props on them. This is just the film version. What I gathered of the meaning of this film (at least on one level) was that it is a representation of the rites of passage inside the Freemason Brotherhood or the struggle of the Entered Apprentice. Naturally, the star of the film must be the director, because he, in all his ego-maniacal pretentious glory, is the only one who can truly understand and enact these deep ideas. So, it being established that Barney must be the main attraction, he appears on camera preceded by oh so tacky titles, literally dressed in a green and pink kilt with a fluffy pink traditional Scottish head dress the size of Texas. Okay, maybe not Texas but Rhode Island at least. And, and, he has a bath towel stuffed in his mouth covered in blood. That, coupled with the amazing outfit he's wearing must be riddled with meaning. After being twirled on a platform by a few showgirls wearing nothing but classy shoes and symbolic pasties, Barney proceeds to climb, literally climb the walls of the Guggenheim in New York. For all the “deep thought” placed in the film, the ability to use this architectural marvel's ramps seemed beyond him. When finally reaching the second level, Scottish Barney and the viewer find a battle-of-the-bands occurring between two hardcore New York punk bands with the liberty-spiked fans and stereotypical accoutrement. Again, I stress that this is taking place in art-less Guggenheim. Somehow, this 'tard talked the curators into letting him using the museum, AND removing all the art from it. He does some more crap, climbs some more walls to the annoying ambient music until he reaches the top level where sculptor Richard Serra is tossing shovel-fulls of molten petroleum jelly against the walls of the museum, allowing it to run down the ramps. With this, Entered Apprentice climbs back down among the double amputees (yes, there is a legless woman with glass boots on one level), the rock bands, the Rockettes dressed as goats, and the bathing women with masonic pasties and the movie ends.

This was a thirty minute snippet of the worst three hours in film history. If you need a good laugh or background noise to shoot yourself to, go watch Cremaster 3. As for me, I'll soon be dropping out of college to dedicate my life to hunting down and maiming Matthew Barney for his crimes against humanity.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Trauma Center: New Blood (Wii) - Jimmy's Perspective

My much wittier counterpart, Kate, had done an excellent job of delineating almost every aspect of the game that I believe makes it terrible:

--The dialog and plot of the game are something that a 14-year-old erotic fiction writer would contrive... On a bad day.

--The cutscenes would be fantastic if the human mind were capable of a level of gestalt that could render storyboards directly into cinematic masterpieces.

--Gameplay is similar to exercises a kindergarten student could do. The only think that makes it more difficult is the amount of time the player has to complete the ridiculously simple tasks. If a game creator can't be bothered to make something a bit more complex, they'll just make it faster to piss you off. Speed not equal good.

-- The opening video is an obvious rip-off of House MD. Even the characters later in the plot are directly lifted from House (save for one whose gender was changed despite leaving the role and -isms the same). Given the blatancy and the lack of creativity, it seems the creators didn't go to ivy league school. Or maybe that's actually a symptom of actually having gone to an overpriced, under-qualified school like Harvard.

All of those things aside, it is a riot to sit with a few friends and mock the hell out the whole thing. It's worth renting once after it gets sorted onto the discount shelf. I had no idea that letter grades were to be assigned when I agreed to write this blog with Kate so forgive me if my grading is a bit stingy at first.

As a serious game: D+
As a something to be laughed at: B*

*A- if alcohol is involved

Trauma Center: New Blood (Wii) - Kate's Perspective

So you know how sometimes you get a game and you’re just impressed by everything about it? The graphics are sleek, the dialogue crisp and witty, the gameplay perfect, the storylines plausible. You fall instantly in love because everything is just so good.

This is not one of those games.

Now, let me explain: I did fall in love with New Blood. I think it improved on Second Opinion in many ways, the most obvious of which being the multiplayer functionality. There’s just some intangible joy to be found in barking orders at your friends—“Drain that hemorrhage! Give him the sutures, you incompetent pissbrain!” What can I say? There just aren’t enough games that offer such opportunity for playing with someone’s life.

But the real entertainment to be found in New Blood is arguably how bad it is. The dialogue, while not exactly wooden, tends to be remarkably insufficient for the situation at hand. The voice acting (for everyone but the two main characters) is overdone. (Just wait until you encounter the testicle-chinned game show host, Guy.) And the standards are ridiculously lax in the operating room. In Easy and Normal modes, you can actually draw loops with the sutures and still earn a COOL score. The storylines, taking place in Alaska, LA and Maryland, were clearly written by someone who had never visited any of those places, particularly Alaska: the very first thing you encounter in the OR is someone who’s been mauled by a bear. Other operations include grafting the skin of someone who caught fire when the hospital was burned down by an arsonist (and performing the operation in the burning hospital, as far as I can tell), performing two appendectomies for the price of one, and a showdown on television to see who can perform an embolectomy faster. Wow.

But these flaws make for some of the best multiplayer gaming to be found on the Wii. Sitting around with your teammates, it’s impossible not to have fun while laughing at the bear attack victim or the questionable dialogue. Were it smooth and polished, it might actually be more difficult to love. And the Trauma Center team has gone to great lengths to differ it from the last one: there are many more operations involving implants, such as pacemakers (this is actually a rather hefty part of the storyline) and so it doesn’t get repetitive.

On an unrelated but amusing note: if you really want to extend the multiplayer action, watch the opening sequence to Trauma Center, then watch the opening sequence to House MD, then take bets with your friends on how long it will take for the House folks to sue the crap out of the Trauma Center folks. Really.

Final grade: B+